Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Review : Bloody Valentine

Bloody Valentine is an intriguing murder mystery. It was only spoilt by Patterson gory description of the murder in way more detail then was necessary.

The story resolves around wealthy restaurant owner Jack Barnes and his second wife Zee who is expecting their first child. Jack and Zee are apparently happily married and live in a luxury apartment block with other members of the family. All seems perfectly normal until one of them is violently murdered, leaving very few clues for the police or the reader. The murderer is cleverly concealed until the last half dozen pages.

A well constructed mystery and part of the Quick Reads series.

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Devotional Thought : 2 Kings 22:8

Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan, who read it. 2 Kings 22:8

Even prior to finding the Book of the Law Josiah had begun to repair the temple. Without the influence of a godly father (Amon) or grandfather (Manasseh), Josiah "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left" (v.2)

Some would blame their upbringing for their beliefs, or lack of beliefs, yet here is Josiah only eight years old deciding to follow the Lord. Before finding the Book of the Law he had determined to live in the ways of David, which illustrates the point that we don't need a 'special word' to start living a more God pleasing life.

Often people wait for God to send a special word of guidance or direction when God is waiting for us to turn to him, then he is able to lead and guide us.

Or maybe, we are waiting for God to perform a miracle or give us a sign to decide whether we will trust God. Yet God has given us the evidence we need in creation (Romans 1:20) and in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In our day we also have the advantage of the historical evidence of Jesus' life and death. However it is easy to ignore a message we do not want to hear.

Josiah started by repairing the temple and in the process found the Book of the Law which led to the renewal of the covenant. We too can start taking the steps which will lead to a renewal of our relationship with God.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Clumsy Servants

Watchman Nee tells the story of a clumsy servant. If he doesn't do anything his clumsiness is unnoticed but the minute he tries to do something his clumsiness is obvious. God knew on our own we would be clumsy servants so he chooses to work through us by enabling and empowering us so we become the competent servants he wants us to be.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review : Spiritual Rhythm

Mark Buchanan, in his book, Spiritual Rhythm : being with Jesus every season of your soul, encourages his readers to look at their spiritual lives in terms of seasons. His reason is that we often become discouraged if we are not making spiritual progress. However, God may still be working but not in an obvious way. Like many trees and plants that go through seasons of growth, fruit bearing, pruning and being dormant, our lives often go through these stages too. If we can be more aware of what season we are in, we are more able to cooperate with God and learn the lessons from that season.

Mark suggests looking back over our lives and identifying particular seasons. While this didn't really work for me I found his general premise thought provoking and contained a great deal of truth.

Having established the idea of seasons in the first part of the book, Mark in the second part of the book deals with more general aspects of Christian living against this backdrop of seasons. He touches on familiar themes of worship, Bible reading, prayer and community but does so with fresh insights and helpful suggestions.

I have read and benefited from Mark Buchanan's many books. This one is his most personal but also the one with the most humour, which I really enjoyed.

A worthwhile and perceptive book.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Devotional Thought : 2 Kings 17:6

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. 2 Kings 17:6

The first part of the exile finally happens. After many warnings from God's prophets the Israelites are captured by Assyria. Israel lost her land, her identity, everything that was important to her because she forsook God.

Verses 7-18 summaries the reasons for the exile: They worshiped other gods … followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them … secretly did things against the LORD their God ... built themselves high places … set up sacred stones and Asherah poles …at every high place they burned incense … did wicked things … worshiped idols … did not trust in the LORD their God … forsook all the commands of the LORD their God … made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves … bowed down to all the starry hosts … worshiped Baal.

This summary, as well as showing the Israelites abandonment of their faith in God, also shows how patient God has been over many generations. There were many times in the 200 years since Solomon's death that God could have removed his people from the land for their transgressions but God waited, longing for them to repent.

Furthermore Israel's exile should have been an example to Judah but ultimately it wasn't and about 150 years later they too were exiled, this time to Babylon.

God's patience is amazing. He has done everything to call us to himself. He longs for us to repent and be in relationship with him. Yet so often we are not willing and prefer to worship man-made things.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

God is fascinating

A speaker I once heard made the comment that one of the names of God contains the thought that God is fascinating. We ought to continually want to spend time with him, not out of duty but because we find him fascinating. As the speaker expounded the idea of God being fascinating it struck me I ought to feel drawn towards God the way a child feels drawn to a computer game.

Computer games are fascinating to children. They always want to have just one more turn. Part of the fascination is seeing if you can perform better next time. Even more, the fascination is in discovering more aspects to the game. Computer games are often long and proceed through a series of stages and each stage of a game holds something new. The computer offers the opportunity of making new discoveries every time you play a game and therein lays its potentially addictive power.

God always has new things to teach us about himself, he always has more truth to reveal to us, and he always wants to bless us with more of his love. God never runs out of things he wants to impart to us. Our God is fascinating. He wants us to be "addicted" to him.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review : Nobody hugs Rod Green

Nobody hugs Rod Green is aimed at young adults and tells the story of Clare Bateman's final two years at school. Through the story Jenny Glazebrook weaves in many issues that confront young people today such as peer pressure, bullying, family dynamics, relationships, drugs and the consummation of alcohol. Early in the story Clare commits to Christian faith and this adds another layer of complexity to her latter school years. Jenny handles these issues well and keeps the story moving at a good pace.

Reading this book made me realize how difficult it is being a young person in modern society with so many pressures and so many of them living in dysfunctional family situations, as well as how immature their decision making can be.

This book is thoroughly Christian but Jenny is realistic about Christian faith. Faith doesn't offer simplistic answers or instantly solve problems. Rather it provides courage to persevere while working through difficulties because of the knowledge that something bigger and better is going on.

I wish I had read a book like this at Clare's age because it would have made me feel less alone and given me hope during what is a difficult transitional stage of life.

I should let my readers know that Jenny is a friend of mine, however I have tried to be objective with my review.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Devotional Thought : 2 Kings 12:2

Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. 2 Kings 12:2

Joash was anointed king by Jehoiada when he was only seven years old. Jehoiada helped preserve Joash's life when he was a baby and he continued to have a godly influence on him. Joash initiated reforms that lead to the temple of the Lord being repaired and restored (12:4-5).

However everything changed when Jehoiada died. Joash now chose to be influenced by ungodly men and when Zechariah, Jehoiada's son, opposed him, he had him stoned. "King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son" (2 Chronicles 24:22).

How appalling that Joash not only forgot his guardian and mentor but also had his son killed. What caused such a reversal in Joash's behaviour?

Joash only did what was right while Jehoiada, the priest was alive. He relied on him for everything, even the choice of his wives (24:3). Did Jehoiada manipulate Joash into making right choices or did Joash never take responsibility for his own decisions?

The Biblical account records that Jehoiada "was buried with the kings in the City of David, because of the good he had done in Israel for God and his temple" (24:16). It seems Joash relied too heavily on Jehoiada and never had a faith of his own. He was easily influenced by his evil officials when Jehoiada died, even bribing the king of Aram with the sacred objects from the temple (2 Kings 12:18).

From such a promising beginning, Joash had a poor end. Considering his life may cause us to wonder if we are influenced by godly/ungodly people? Do we rely too heavily on others for spiritual direction? Do we have our own faith?

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

God's Omnipresence

How do I come into the presence of God when he is everywhere at once?

God explains his omnipresence this way, “‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away’” (Jeremiah 23:23). This verse and others contain the idea of coming into God’s Presence and inviting him to be with us. God has the amazing ability to be “far away” and “nearby” at the same time! In doing so, God has created the opportunity for his people to seek to have a more intimate relationship with him, but the choice is ours.

In human friendships we can keep the relationship on a surface level, even with people we see a lot. We do this by restricting the conversation to safe subjects, like how we spend our time or the weather. We do not talk about our feelings or beliefs. It takes time and effort to build the relationship so we can share more intimate things. The same is true in our relationship with God. Even though God knows how we feel it is necessary to spend the time and effort seeking to draw near to him if we desire to have an intimate relationship with him.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Book Review : Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

It took me several chapters to connect with, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, mainly because I was unfamiliar with the setting and context. However once I appreciated this I was hooked.

It is a moving story of 'first love' between a Chinese boy Henry, and a Japanese girl Keiko, living in Seattle during World War II. The book lives up to the expectation of being both bitter and sweet.

The book was well written and I enjoyed the way Jamie Ford weaved his story around historical events, creating believable characters and situations. The story jumps between 1942-1945 and 1986. Sometimes I would have liked it to have jumped more often as it was good to have respite from some of the war events and know that Henry does survive it all despite many challenges.

I do like happy endings and I was completely satisfied with this one, not only for the main characters but also for the other relationships.

I read this book as part of my book club and I'm glad I did.

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

Devotional Thought : 2 Kings 8:27

“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 2 Kings 8:27

There is a lot of detail in the Bible as to how the temple was to be constructed. Yet despite all the time and effort that went into God's directions for its development, Solomon acknowledges that God does not really dwell in humanly built temples. Constable in his Commentary makes the comment, "Solomon did not confuse the symbols of God's Presence with God Himself." However it leaves us wondering why God directed the temple to be built?

The desire for a temple initiated with David, not God. He wanted to build God a temple to house the ark of the covenant which was in a tent during his time. David's motives was pure, to honour God by building a permanent structure. David cultural setting probably influenced his desire since the surrounding nations had temples for their idols.

Even though God preferred to have a tent (Acts 15:16), he allowed David to organize the building of a temple and Solomon to complete the work. God was able to use this physical structure to teach his people spiritual lessons about kingdom living and the coming Messianic reign.

The temple was symbolic of God's abiding presence with his people but unfortunately over time it became synonymous with God. Consequently the people felt abandoned when it was destroyed and they were taken into exile.

Likewise this is a danger for us today. We can become so impressed with the symbolic that we forget their purpose. As we partake in Christian ceremonies we need to remind ourselves that the symbols of God's presence are simply symbols, and not God Himself and if necessary, we can worship God without them.

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Blog Tour : Rebecca's Dream

This blog tour is for the novel: Rebecca's Dream by Carol Preston. This book is part of a blog tour organized by Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance

My book review can be found here.

1st – 5th September

is introducing


Carol Preston

About the Book:
Rebecca Oakes is thirteen years old when her mother, Suzannah, dies in the small town of Marengo, New South Wales, in 1873. With her older brother and sisters soon involved in their own lives, Rebecca is left alone to care for her ageing father. But Rebecca has a dream for her own life. She wants to make a difference to the world around her; a world where it is hardly possible for a woman to get an education, where women have no rights, no vote, no voice. Rebecca will have to fight the systems of her time if she is to achieve her goals. She must find the courage to stand against sexual and religious prejudice, and resist the pressures of even those close to her, in order to make her way towards her dream, influenced by one man who hates her, who will do anything to thwart her plans, and another man who loves her, and will do anything to make her happy.

Rebecca’s Dream is the second book in the Oakes Family Saga. Background notes and discussion questions are available for book clubs.

About the Author: Carol lives in Wollongong with her husband, Neil. She is a psychologist and has a part time private counselling practice, as well as being an author and speaker. Carol enjoys spending time with her children and four grandchildren, as well as bushwalking, gardening and holidaying overseas with her husband. One of her hobbies over many years has been family history research. It was this research which started Carol on the journey of writing novels.

Her first trilogy is about the Oakes Family; Suzannah’s Gold, Rebecca’s Dream and The Price of Peace, which takes the reader from 1838 when her great great grandmother, Suzannah Casey was transported from Ireland, through to the end of the First World War when Suzannah’s children and grandchildren are involved in the battle, not only to survive the war but to survive the waiting at home. The first two of these have recently been re-released by EBP. Carol’s fourth novel, The Face of Forgiveness, is about two young women who are transported to Australia in 1839. The most recent of Carol’s novel is a series based on her mother’s family, which begins with the First Fleet of convicts to Australia. These include Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets, and Truly Free.

For more information about Carol’s books and her other interests she can be contacted on her website: www.carolpreston.com.au, on her Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/writingtoreach or her Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/carolpreston.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Book Review : Rebecca's Dream

This book is being featured on the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance this week. Information about the author and more details about the book can be found here.

In Rebecca's Dream, Carol Preston not only provides us with a good story but also a fascinating insight into the difficulties of life on the land between 1870 and 1890, plus a brief look at life in Sydney during this time. This is a well researched story with historical tit bits enriching the story

Mostly life was hard at this time in Australia's history as people contended with drought, fire, hot summers and cold winters with none of the modern conveniences. For women there was the added burden of giving birth to lots of children, many of whom were taken by various illnesses in their infancy.

Rebecca's Dream tells the story of one woman who was determined to have a different future to the one her friends and family expected and wanted for her. Her passion for women to have more choices in their lives caused much tension in her family and community. Rebecca's plans were fraught with more obstacles than seem possible for one person to have to endue.

Carol cleverly weaves lots of interesting themes into the story which are not altogether obvious such as the value of counselling and how forgiveness enables a person to move on with their life rather than being tied to their past.

Overall an absorbing and informative read.

Thanks to Even Before Publishing for providing a free book for review

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